The Libyan crisis has once again come to forefront as the rebel Libyan National Army (LNA) lead by field marshal Khalifa Haftar has launched the offensive to capture the capital Tripoli and now has nearly 80% of Libya under his control compared to the Government of National Accord under Sarraj as recognised by UN only controlling 20% of territory near capital Tripoli. It is worth noting that Haftar was captured by Chad forces in September 1987 in the war between Libya & Chad. Chadian military was backed by US, UK & France against Gaddafi Libyan forces who swiftly dumped his POWs. Months later Americans in a deal managed to take Haftar & his men from Chad to USA where he was housed at Langley & granted US citizenship. He & his men were later briefed and trained by the CIA to take on Gaddafi & that moment came when NATO forces lead by France invaded Libya in 2011.
Khalifa Haftar came back to Libya post 2011 uprising and overthrow of Gaddafi only to be mired in a spiraling conflict with rival militias controlling various parts of Libya while the UN recognized Fayez al-Sarraj as the head of Government of National Accord (GNA). Being ditched once again by the west, Khalifa Haftar cultivated alliances with local militias & salafist groups like Madhkhalists whose salafi doctrines of Islam are backed by House of Saud in Saudi Arabia. Haftar & Madkhalists oppose participatory democracy unlike Muslim Brotherhood who are known as ‘ikhwan’ in Arabic. In an expansion of this intra Islamic tug of war countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia & UAE are openly backing Haftar against the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile the Gaddafi’s son Saif-Al-Islam made renewed call for national unity being in captivity of tribal militias in Zintan. Also there is threat of Islamic State who have gained foothold in Libya using the sea route for human trafficking and smuggling terrorists into Europe.
Haftar also enjoy support from countries like France who in a bid to contain the chaos of Libya from spreading into former French colonies like Algeria & Chad are backing the Libyan Strong man Khalifa Haftar. The crash of French military chopper in Benghazi in 2016 blew open the nexus. Haftar has got open support from French Defence minister under President Macron while giving lip service to official government in Tripoli. Not only the west but even Russia is equally engaged in courting & arming Haftar’s LNA. Haftar asked for military help from Moscow in February 2017, which was provided by Russia who admitted providing dozen Special Forces, intelligence operatives (GRU) & arms to train the Haftar and his men. Russia’s interest in Libya is to get a foothold in gateway to Africa on the Mediterranean coast & its rich energy reserves. Thus it makes all the sense for Moscow to give West another Syria in Libya by backing Haftar & his LNA. Libya is perfect script for a chaotic war where a CIA man, backed by Islamists is co-opted by Russia, France & fellow Arab nations for different reasons. As the offensive by Haftar’s men (LNA) on Tripoli gathers steam Libya is headed for more chaos in days and weeks ahead.